Next Gen Fall TV: 10 Stars Poised for Breakouts
Never heard of Priyanka Chopra, Melissa Benoist or Jon Batiste? Don't worry: After premieres of 'Quantico,' 'Supergirl' and 'The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,' the names of these — and seven other under-35 up-and-comers — may be popping up everywhere.
This story first appeared in the Sept. 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
With more than 400 original scripted series in production, breaking out is no easy feat these days. But as the TV industry heads into its busiest season, this dossier of 10 up-and-comers, 35 and under, is poised to cut through the clutter. Their shows already are generating buzz (see Quantico), critical anticipation (The Late Show With Stephen Colbert) and a whole lot of viral traffic (hello, Supergirl).
DOB: Oct. 4, 1988
Hometown: Littleton, Colo.
Reps: UTA, Anonymous, Frankfurt Kurnit
As CBS' titular Supergirl, Benoist won't be unfamiliar for long. The six-minute trailer for the former Glee actress' DC Comics series has netted more than 14 million views — well before its Oct. 26 premiere. Also impressive as Miles Teller's love interest in Whiplash, the married actress is poised to experience the fall's biggest profile surge.
How I Landed the Role: "After many auditions and multiple screen tests. But I knew it was an important and inspiring project that I wanted to be a part of, and when [executive producer] Greg Berlanti mentioned in one of my auditions that Kara Zor-El was the Annie Hall of superheroes — forget about it, I was hooked."
Hollywood Role Model: "I grew up idolizing Gene Kelly. I even went to tap camp to learn choreography from his movies."
Dream Job: "I'd love to be onstage again!"
DOB: July 18, 1982
Hometown: Mumbai, India
Reps: CAA, Anjula Acharia-Bath
The Bollywood megastar, who boasts a combined 27 million Facebook and Twitter followers, picked the FBI thriller for her U.S. series debut when a talent deal with ABC Studios presented her with a pile of scripts. She's new to American audiences, but Chopra already has starred in more than 45 films in her native country and holds its enviable title of highest-paid actress. The network is banking on that global appeal, prepping a massive marketing push for the Sept. 27 premiere and trotting Chopra out on stage during its upfront presentation for advertisers in May alongside fellow leading ladies Ellen Pompeo (Grey's Anatomy) and Kerry Washington (Scandal).
How I Landed the Role: "I read 26 scripts, but Quantico was the one I instantly connected with. Alex is a badass."
How I Celebrated: "I went back to sleep! I was in India when I got the news, and it was early in the morning. I had just finished an all-night shoot, so I had literally just fallen asleep no more than 30 minutes before when my manager in the U.S. called me 10 times before calling my mom. She literally banged down my door. We had a 'high five' moment."
Hollywood Role Model: "Meryl Streep. She is pure genius."
Dream Job: "My inner geek would say her dream job is to become an aeronautical engineer for NASA."
First Gig: "My first Hindi film, Andaaz, was back in 2003."
TV Show I Can't Miss: "Sorry, this one has to be two shows: Scandal and Empire."
Netflix's Master of None
DOB: May 17, 1984
Reps: Paradigm, The Mission, Del Shaw
Waithe's Twitter profile reads, in part: "writer. producer. actor. shit talker." Soon she'll be able to add "star." The Dear White People producer has a key role on Aziz Ansari's Netflix comedy (Nov. 6) and recently sold a coming-of-age drama to Showtime. In announcing the news, Showtime's David Nevins called Waithe "a really fresh voice" whose script "knocked [him] out."
How I Landed the Role: "Aziz told [casting director Allison Jones] he was looking for some interesting people to populate his show, and I was one of the people she suggested. Once [he and I] started improv-ing a scene in which I tell him what a THOT is — it's an acronym for 'that ho over there' — I knew we had something special."
How I Celebrated: "My girlfriend and I hugged and kissed, and then we walked to 7-Eleven to get some snacks."
TV Show I Can't Miss: "Broad City is my hipster answer. Unsung on TV One is my really black answer."
Amazon's Red Oaks
DOB Jan. 21, 1991
Hometown: Maesycwmmer, Wales
Reps: WME, Curtis Brown, Brillstein
As an angsty college student in Amazon's 1980s Steven Soderbergh comedy (Oct. 9), Roberts is the straight- man standout in an ensemble that includes veterans Paul Reiser, Jennifer Grey and Richard Kind. His film career is set to take off, too, with the Neighbors actor starring in the Toronto indie Kill Your Friends opposite James Corden and Nicholas Hoult.
How I Landed the Role: "I sent a tape from London. I remember just trying to make the self-tape as interesting as possible because they are the worst. In a normal audition, it's much easier to make an impression because you can chat for a little and try and come across as interesting. I tried popping up from weird places in the tape and probably just looked crazy."
How I Celebrated: "I said [to myself], 'Don't f— this up.' "
Dream Job: "To have been in Eyes Wide Shut — not for the sex party but because I love that movie."
NBC's The Wiz Live!
DOB July 9, 1996
Hometown: Rahway, N.J.
Rep: Beth Rosner Management
On Dec. 3, the musical theater specialist with zero screen credits will step into Dorothy's ruby slippers for NBC's highly anticipated The Wiz Live! after beating out thousands of hopefuls in the network's open casting.
Memorable Audition: "This was my first. I will always remember thinking, 'So this is what a real audition is like?' It's amazing to see how far I came when I think about standing in line for hours with hundreds of other girls."
Hollywood Role Model: Audra McDonald
Dream Job: "Starring in a Broadway musical … with Audra McDonald."
The CW's Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
DOB April 3, 1987
Hometown: Manhattan Beach, Calif.
Reps: UTA, 3 Arts, Ginsburg Daniels
With her Showtime pilot of the same name dead in the water, virtual unknown Bloom went from zero to 100 on the eve of the upfronts when The CW swooped in and made her musical comedy (Oct. 12) the face of its fall schedule, pairing the writer and star's hourlong series with network darling Jane the Virgin.
Hollywood Role Model: "Earnestly, Tina Fey. I think she's just a class act and awesome."
Dream Job: "Second to this would be designing roller coasters for Disney."
How I Celebrated: "[Crazy Ex co-creator] Aline Brosh McKenna buried the lead when she called and said, 'Drop everything you're doing and meet me at Soho House and have a glass of wine to celebrate our series pickup!' I got there, instantly started drinking, and I have a picture of us in the photo booth — my eyes are just insane. We thought the show was dead. Within a day, it was alive and going on TV in the fall."
DOB March 12, 1984
Hometown: Grapevine, Texas
Reps: WME, Atlas Artists, Ginsburg Daniels
All eyes are on the star of NBC's high-concept drama Blindspot (Sept. 21), and not simply because of those risque skin-baring ads. Thanks to a noteworthy role in the Thor film trilogy, a well-received appearance at TCA and the series' coveted post-Voice slot, Alexander, who is engaged to Twilight star Peter Facinelli, is primed to break out.
How I Landed the Role: "I never actually auditioned for it. They sent the script, and I absolutely loved it. Most characters like Jane would ordinarily be played by a man, so I was drawn to the idea of a strong female as well as the complexity and layers beneath her."
Memorable Audition: "Kissing Ryan Reynolds while covered in poison ivy during a camera test for R.I.P.D."
Hollywood Role Model: Sigourney Weaver
TV Show I Can't Miss: "Ancient Aliens [on History]. I'm really captivated by the idea of life beyond our world."
Dream Job: "Owner of a cool little cafe in Seattle or Portland, Ore."
AMC's Fear the Walking Dead
DOB April 21, 1991
Reps: Michelle Braidman Associates (U.K.), WME
The former Harry Potter villain is positioned for TV stardom with his role on AMC's Walking Dead companion series (Aug. 23). The Royal Academy-trained actor also has strong Hollywood genetics thanks to his actor father, Stephen Dillane (Game of Thrones), and theater manager mother, Naomi Wirthner.
How I Landed the Role: "Kate Rhodes James [the U.K. casting director] shot the scenes with me a few times, cut together the best bits from different takes and Frankensteined the perfect audition. Thanks, Kate."
Dream Job: "Giovanni in 'Tis Pity She's a Whore."
TV Shows I Can't Miss: "The Take, Mad Men and the original [U.K.] House of Cards."
CBS' The Late Show With Stephen Colbert
DOB Nov. 11, 1986
Hometown: Kenner, La.
Reps: CAA, Quincy Jones Productions
Booking an appearance on one of the final episodes of The Colbert Report proved more fruitful than Batiste could have imagined. The New Orleans-bred multi-instrumentalist and singer so impressed host Stephen Colbert, he and his band Stay Human were invited to fill Paul Shaffer's slot at the Ed Sullivan Theater when the Colbert-era Late Show launches Sept. 8.
First Gig: "Some small bar on an old, out-of-tune honky-tonk piano somewhere in New Orleans with a band of grown men. I was 9."
Hollywood Role Model: "Bill Cosby was my Hollywood role model until recently. Now it's Stephen Colbert."
Memorable Audition: "The Juilliard audition I missed due to Hurricane Katrina."
FX's The Bastard Executioner
DOB Sept. 15, 1982
Reps: WME, Emery Entertainment, Sophie Jermyn Management
As the No. 1 name on the call sheet for Kurt Sutter's Sons of Anarchy follow-up (Sept. 15), the Aussie theater vet can bank on bloody scenes and a soaring profile when the medieval drama bows on his 33rd birthday. If Executioner does for Jones what the smash hit Sons did for Charlie Hunnam, then movie star status isn't far off.
How I Landed the Role: "I was going out of town. I threw a tape together on the road and then had to cancel the trip, go back to L.A. and get on a plane to London. I did the audition the next morning, jet-lagged."
Dream Job: "Anything I can cast my mates in with me. Or a Tom Waits biopic."